22 November 2012

The contractor is not your flexible friend

BT, Capita or EC Harris will not do this for you
We keep hearing, especially from Cllr Richard Cornelius, about how flexible the big NSCSO and DRS One Barnet contracts will be and will be able to bend to take into account all of the changes that might occur over the next 10 years. You are deluding us Richard (well trying to anyway). Given that the contracts involve £100m p.a. of services Mr Mustard expects that something will be forgotten and they won't even cover what they are meant to from the off.

We have an opportunity to study the parking enforcement contract, an early One Barnet contract, as an example of supposedly in-built flexibility. Mr Mustard obtained 90% of that contract under Freedom of Information legislation. He has a copy of schedule 5, Change Control Procedures. Now Mr Mustard can't bring you the actual wording as it is from the British Parking Association and they claim copyright over it, having had it drawn up by expensive lawyers and now they flog it to every council that they can in order to make some funds. Mr Mustard can tell you what the clauses are that it contains, they are pretty standard boring legal stuff and easily fit on 2 pages of A4.

Firstly some principles are set out.

Either party (Barnet Council or NSL) can request a change and propose a Contract amendment.

Neither party can refuse to budge if the proposed change is a reasonable one (lawyers already rubbing their hands together at the thought of what constitutes unreasonably withholding consent).

Nothing changes until an agreed Note of the changes is signed by both parties.

NSL don't get paid for any changes that are not supported by a Note.

Then there has to be a procedure (well we are talking about a council).

There have to be discussions which end up with nothing at all changing, the council making a written request for a change or NSL recommending a change.

The council's written request has to be the subject of a signed Note from NSL  within 7 days. This contains the extra price or the price reduction (Mr Mustard thinks of this Note as the "we've got you over a barrel" form, because there is nowhere else the council can go to for the change and monopoly power = name your own price).

The Note also sets out the what, the where, the why and the when.

If it was NSL who recommended a change then the Council get to ask for more information and either accept or reject the proposed change.

Then finally there is some legal wording about who is entitled to sign and that the Notes amount to contract variations.

That is it. There is no amazing radical flexible solution built into the One Barnet Contracts.

This is where we are. Over a barrel.

Mr Mustard is completely unconvinced that entering into 10 year contracts on a wing and a prayer is a good idea.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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